Source: SW Radio Africa
The deteriorating economic situation in Zimbabwe is exacerbating violence against women and children, leading historian Pathisa Nyathi has said.

In recent months there have been several reported cases across the country, highlighting the brutalisation of women and children through rape or ritualistic killings.

Last week three men from Gwanda appeared in court charged with murdering four women and cutting off some of their body parts for ritual purposes.

ZANU PF activist Lillian Kandemiri was recently jailed for offering her 15-year-old grand-daughter as payment for a $40,000 debt.

This week Tuesday, the Supreme Court ordered the State to compensate Mildred Mapingure who was denied an abortion after she was gang-raped in her home eight years ago.

On Wednesday President Robert Mugabe said he receives "disturbing child sexual abuse statistics" and went on to call for a campaign against the rape "epidemic" saying stiffer penalties alone will not help.

Speaking to SW Radio Africa's Big Picture Programme on Thursday, Bulawayo-based historian Pathisa Nyathi said legislating against the general breakdown of the moral fabric will not work.

"The exploitation, rape and ritualistic murders and violence perpetrated against these vulnerable groups are grounded in the country's economic collapse.

"Stiffer penalties will not work because as long as people are hungry they will engage in these anti-social behaviours and unfortunately women and children are the victims," Nyathi said.

He said that ritual murderers carry out their crimes in the misinformed hope that body parts that are associated with fertility will help improve their financial status.

Nyathi also said the nationwide campaigns suggested by the president will not work in a deprived population.

"Those in authority should sort out the economy first, create employment and ensure that people are able to fend for themselves, because deprivation is a source of frustration and for some people, this manifests itself through violent behaviour."

Abigail Matsvai, of the Zimbabwe Women Lawyers Association, said while the socio-economic environment can be partly blamed for violence against women and children, the real problem lies in the way Zim society understands gender relations.

"The problem also lies in our perception of who has value and who doesn't, and in Zimbabwe there is a tendency to think that women and children have little value," Matsvai said.

She also pointed out that the nature of the violence and brutality was becoming increasingly gruesome.

"We want to encourage women and children to report these cases where they happen and increasingly we are seeing more and more of these cases being reported.

"But also we are also seeing an increase in the magnitude of the nature of these violations," Matsvai added.

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